Champions, not favourites

2014-08-15 12:37
Allan Freese (Gallo Images)

Rustenburg - Platinum Stars coach Allan Freese has played down their “defending champions” tag ahead of an MTN8 meeting with Kaizer Chiefs in Rustenburg on Saturday.

“Yes, we are the defending champions but it means nothing. It’s a new season, the competition is the same,” Freese said before this weekend’s first of two semi-final legs.

“So if we want to retain (the Cup) we have to pull up our socks as well and match the teams we are going to play against.”

Dikwena lifted last season’s edition of the cup reserved exclusively for teams who finished in the top eight of the Premiership the previous season.

Their R8 million winners cheque came as a surprise but proved to be a precursor to a second unexpected cup triumph, in the Telkom Knockout, a few months later.

Freese quickly became one of the most successful Platinum Stars managers of all time, but was aware that with such success, came a heightened sense of expectancy.

Considered an outsider for any real shot at a Premiership title - the most coveted of any silverware on offer - Freese dismissed claims that Stars delivered better performances when the league made way for cup competitions, and felt Stars had as good a chance at the league as the cup tournaments.

“We’ve decided we will prepare for the cup the same way we will prepare to play any team in the league,” Freese said.

“Cup games are just as important as the league games, so we start with one, and when that is finished, we prepare again for the next game.”

Dikwena, however, once again came up against one of the favourites, not only in the league, but also in every cup tournament they entered.

Chiefs had been the early pacesetters and had quickly left their closest rivals in their wake following the start of the 2014/15 season.

Three wins out of three in competitive games this season, Chiefs were the most dominant of the teams in the previous round of top eight fixtures, thumping Mpumalanga Black Aces 4-0 a fortnight ago.

Worrying for Amakhosi would be Stars’ nasty habit of beating the Soweto giants when they were at their best and so often resembled a runaway train.

The last time the two teams met, in March, Stars beat Chiefs 2-0 at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace, ending the Glamour Boys’ incredible run of 15 games without defeat.

Before Chiefs began their 15-match run, they had lost to the same Stars outfit in the knockout tournament, which Stars went on to win.

As it stood, Chiefs were currently on an unbeaten run which stretched back to April -- eight games in total.

Freese would hope Ndumiso Mabena’s solid early form continued. The former Orlando Pirates striker joined Stars before the start of the season and had already bagged three goals in as many games for his new club.

“We lost a number of players. He was available. We got him to come over to Stars,” Freese said of the Buccaneers' castaway.

“We didn’t change the way he must play. He had to play how Platinum Stars would like to play and I’m quite happy that he’s doing well for the club.

“He’s scored three goals in three games and that makes me very happy.”

Read more on:    platinum stars  |  mtn8  |  soccer

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